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Early Childhood Grants to Boost Literacy, Reduce Abuse and Strengthen Families

Seven organizations awarded funding Tuesday, credit: Matt Lemmon

Seven Ozarks organizations are the recipients of a combined $50,000 to help support education of area youth. Specifically, the money will address the “red flags” related to early childhood issues.

“In this week of thankfulness and Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for the work you do to get our children off to a best and early start. That makes all the difference in a child’s life,” said Brian Fogle, president of Community Foundation for the Ozarks (CFO).

On Tuesday, CFO formally awarded the non-matching funds to programs that aim to increase literacy, reduce abuse and neglect of young children, strengthen families, and provide case management and quality childcare.

Fogle says the payoff of these early childhood dollars when they reach adulthood comes in the form of less jail time, better wages and higher education attainment.

Kathy Pinkley, speaking on behalf of the Ozarks Literacy Council – who received $4,000 from CFO – says this will allow for the purchase of books and materials to the Wonder Years Program.

“It was once thought that a child’s education began in kindergarten and we know that’s not true anymore because that can place them years behind. The Wonder Years Program is a great program. It develops pre-literacy and literacy skills for the children to get them ready for kindergarten. We give them an opportunity to do activities… We give them books to take home, which we all know just having access to books at home increases the literacy level,” Pinkley said.

The Springfield-Greene County Library District, with the help of $7,050, will also continue to increase kindergarten readiness. Nancee Dahms-Stinson is the Youth Services coordinator.  

“The Racing to Read early literacy program is based on the premise that parents are the children’s best first teachers. But the library is the best community resource to provide support for those parents. This money will go to expand and enhance our Racing to Read early literacy centers, which are located in all of our libraries.”

Other organizations like Friends of Operation US will put $9,200 toward continuing their Hatching Project. According to Dr. Jennifer Baker, the program helps expecting parents form and maintain a healthy, stable home that is free from conflict for the benefit of their young children.

$13,750 will go to Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation Head Start. The organization’s Alice Wingo says this will allow for the screening of more than 6,000 children over the next 10 years using DIAL-4 diagnostic kits.

“We are mandated to screen all children for speech, language, hearing, vision, motor, cognitive and other concerns within the first 45 days of enrollment. And the purpose of this screening is to provide early identification and promote healthy development of young children. We have used the Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning (DIAL) Third Edition, DIAL-3 kits, for the last several years. But they’ve been replaced with a fourth edition. And to facilitate collaboration between school districts and minimize the need for re-screening, we need the DIAL-4 kits so we are in compliance with that,” Wingo said.

The University Child Care Center was awarded $2,000 to offer childcare scholarships to low income families who cannot meet tuition and to send teachers to accreditation training.

$8,000 will allow Community Partnership of the Ozarks’ Strengthening Families Program to help families internalize protective factors that lessen child abuse.

Lighthouse Child and Family Development will use $6,000 for materials and training to provide case management, family education and quality childcare at low cost for high-need families.

The seven organizations to receive $50,000 were chosen from a pool of 10 applicants who collectively requested $98,358. These grants were made possible through the CFO’s discretionary grantmaking funds for Metro Springfield. The “red flags” related to early childhood issues were identified in the Community Focus Report for Springfield-Greene County.

For more information on the CFO’s grantmaking programs, visit: